Friday - - Beauty -

Q I want to pur­sue a ca­reer in foren­sic sci­ence. Could you tell me a lit­tle about the sub­ject and which col­leges are best for this over­seas? A Foren­sic sci­ence is the study and use of sci­ence and tech to as­sist and re­solve crim­i­nal, civil and reg­u­la­tory is­sues.

You could pre­pare your­self for this pro­gramme with cour­ses such as physics, bi­ol­ogy, chem­istry and maths in school. Foren­sic sci­ence tech­ni­cians would nor­mally have a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in a nat­u­ral sci­ence, such as chem­istry or bi­ol­ogy, or in foren­sic sci­ence. They may fur­ther spe­cialise in a spe­cific area of study such as tox­i­col­ogy, pathol­ogy or DNA. A pru­dent op­tion that would open you to more jobs would be to pur­sue nat­u­ral sciences in col­lege with elec­tives or a mas­ter’s in foren­sic sciences. Re­mem­ber in this pro­gramme the sci­ence comes first and foren­sics sec­ond.

Foren­sic sci­ence work could be in lab­o­ra­to­ries or at the crime scene. The for­mer will re­quire you to an­a­lyse DNA sam­ples, per­form bi­o­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal anal­y­sis on ev­i­dence col­lected at the crime scene, study dig­i­tal me­dia for rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion or per­form spe­cialised tasks. Work on the crime scene in­volves col­lect­ing ev­i­dence in­clud­ing fin­ger­prints, tak­ing pho­to­graphs, record­ing ob­ser­va­tions and sketches.

Stu­dents wish­ing to pur­sue this course should have not only good math­e­mat­i­cal and sci­ence skills but good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills too as they shall be re­quired to keep a record of their ob­ser­va­tions and tes­tify in court. They should have a pen­chant for de­tail, be ca­pa­ble of an­a­lyt­i­cal think­ing and pos­sess prob­lem-solv­ing skills.

Foren­sic sci­ence pro­grammes cover var­i­ous spe­cialised job func­tions in­clud­ing DNA an­a­lyst, bal­lis­tics, doc­u­ment ex­am­iner, dig­i­tal and com­puter in­ves­ti­ga­tor, ac­coun­tant, psy­chol­o­gist and pathol­o­gist. For in­stance a foren­sic ac­coun­tant would in­ves­ti­gate fraud or em­bez­zle­ment and an­a­lyse fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion for use in le­gal pro­ceed­ings; a DNA an­a­lyst would be re­spon­si­ble for analysing ev­i­dence such as blood, hair fol­li­cles, or other bod­ily flu­ids.

In the US, Penn State, Syra­cuse, UC, Davis and Drexel are known for their foren­sic pro­grammes; with the ex­cep­tion of Penn State the rest of­fer it only at grad­u­ate level. In the UK, univer­si­ties renowned for this would in­clude Dundee, Keele, Strath­clyde and Kent.

Be care­ful to in­tro­spect on your strengths and weak­nesses and not be swayed by the glitz and glam­our of shows like Bones, Dex­ter or CSI – the real world is un­for­tu­nately far more mun­dane and less ex­cit­ing.

SAN­JEEV VERMA is an international ed­u­ca­tion coun­sel­lor

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